Authors: Silla Webb
My heart seizes in my chest as a war of emotions unleash, tears streaming rapidly down my face. I stare down at the scrawled out handwriting, a smear of ink trails through a light stain, rough indents from the pressure of the pen pressing into the paper. Josh is a man of pride and confidence, and I can only imagine how this very simple act brought him to his knees with conviction.
The screen door creaks closed and I look up to see Luke making his way to the swing. I slide over to the center of the swing allowing him room to sit, and he tucks me into his side instantly. “Ya alright?” He asks, as he sets the swing at a slow swaying pace.
“Yeah,” I whisper quietly, swiping the tears from my face.
“Are ya gonna write him back?” Luke asks, his chest vibrating with the deep timbre of his voice.
I fidget with the hem of my shirt nervously, uneasy with Luke’s penetrating glare as I consider his question. “No, I don’t think I will. This is the exoneration of our marriage. He has enough conviction to live with so I think it’s best to conclude everything now, without creating more strife for both of us.”
Luke tips his head in a curt nod. “You’re amazing, Savannah.”
“Yeah, why’s that?” I ask bashfully.
“Because you didn’t allow Josh to shatter you completely. Although he broke you down, you were able to fight back and find your courage. I can see the pain in your eyes after you read that letter. I know you won’t go see him because you don’t want him to suffer any more than what’s due to him. You know him seeing you will provoke demons that he’s battling to subdue. After everything, you’re concerned about how he feels. You’re selfless, sweetheart.”
Slowly, through the vehement waves a new Savannah emerges. There is still a glint of uncertainty in her soft green eyes at times, but her strength shines tenfold brighter than the woman I first met. I can’t take the recognition, however, because all I did was anchor her steadily, encouraging her strength to surface so she wouldn’t drown in the raging seas of her despair. It was Savannah who embraced the wreckage, relentlessly battling her demons to persevere.
Sav’s been beaming a megawatt smile since receiving her divorce petition, and I can’t help but notice I’m smilin’ a little more myself these days. We haven’t discussed us any further only because I didn’t want to come off desperate or pushy. Fact of the matter is, I am very desperate to have Savannah safely shielded in my arms. I want to encompass her with the love she deserves, yet has never received.
Colton and Carly are onto my tactics and covertly staged a plan for me to swoop Savannah away today. After having breakfast at the diner with the kids, we drop them off at Carly’s, then set off.
“So why are you keeping our plans for the day such a secret from me?” Savannah ask, turning the music down in my truck. It was a battle for me to drive, she’s really taken hold of her control, scared to let loose for a fraction of a second. That’s why I kept our plans a secret, because I knew there is no way in hell she’d agree if I didn’t spring it on her suddenly. Savannah is a baby steps kinda gal, she doesn’t veer from her comfort zone ever.
I pass her a sideways glance, trying to keep my eyes on the narrow curves ahead. “Because seein’ the expression on your face once we get there will make it all the more worthwhile for me.” I shoot her a quick wink and a pink blush creeps up her apple cheeks.
We pull into the back lot of the diner and I slam my truck in park quickly jumping out and making my way around the hood of the truck to open Savannah’s door. When we first started spending time together, this small act of kindness would put her off and I quickly realized she wasn’t used to being treated like a lady.
That pisses me off so damn much. I have to fight back the rage that boils to the surface with the memory of finding Savannah in a heap on the floor battered and lifeless. It’s vividly clear in my mind, so I know it’s wrecks her with nightmares often. I sometimes hear her crying out in her sleep, thrashing wildly about the bed in self-defense. I peeked in on her the other night and had to swallow my pride, backing out of the room to let her fight her nightmares alone. I wanted to slide in the bed beside her, take her in my arms and shush her tormented cries, but thought better of it. I want Savannah to fall into my arms at her own will.
“We just left here, Luke, and I’m certain the back parking lot is for employees.” She replies on a giggle, glancing around the gravel lot.
“Follow me, sweetheart.” I reply, clutchin’ her slender fingers through mine as we walk through the back door of the diner. We pass through the kitchen and I tip my head up at Jenny and Tony who are frantically shufflin’ around the grill preparing breakfast orders. Pushing the door open to my office, we step inside. Savannah looks around the small room suspiciously as I dig around in the desk drawer for my extra set of keys. She picks up the small framed photo on the corner of the deak, studying it meticulously. Her eyes mist over with sorrow, but I pull her back to the present when I gently link our fingers together leading her outside.
Passin’ by my truck, we make our way over to the storage building that sits behind the diner. I unlock the buildin’, then swing the doors open wide. Savannah’s mouth hangs open wide as she takes in my bike. Wooooo, that Tillie is a looker. She’s a 2012 Harley Davidson Fat Boy 1800, glossy black powder coating with black powder coated twisted spoke wheels and a chrome Screaming Eagle exhaust nightstick muffler.
“Luuukke,” she singsongs apprehensively with a frightening grin as her teeth grit together.
I take the helmet from the shelf, sliding it on her, fastening it securely. “Yeah, Sav?” I question, fully prepared for battle.
“What’cha think we’re gonna do with that hunk of metal there?” Her brow tilts up as she searches my eyes.
“We’re gonna ride, sweetheart.” I tell her as I kick the stand up and shove the bike out of the building. I used to keep my bike parked at my old man’s house, but Colton smashed Lucy into the pavement, sendin’ her to a rusty grave. It was hard to part with Lucy, she was my first after all, but Tillie sure as hell is one fine beauty. I decided it was best to keep her stored away under lock and key for safe keeping.
Straddling the cool metal, I flip my ratted old UK hat on backwards, then slide my aviators in place. Glancing back at Savannah, she passes me a knowing look. Her eyes are wide and anxious, her cheeks flush as her mouth draws open in an “O”. “I-I, do I just sit on it? Where do I hold on? Is there a seatbelt? I don’t wanna fall off!” She rambles out in a rushed breath that leaves her pantin’.
I kick the stand back in place and swing my leg over the bike. I reach out, grippin’ her hips and pull her between my thighs, her shaky hands gently resting upon my shoulders. She drops her chin to her chest, her dark brown hair curtaining her face as she tries to steady her short breaths. “Sav, look at me sweetheart.” I tip her chin up slightly and am met with glossy green eyes. “Have I ever put you in harms’ way before?” I whisper, trailing my thumb across her cheek. She shakes her head from side to side as she pinches her eyes closed. When they drift open a bashful smile plays on her lips and she squares her shoulders, drawing in a deep breath. “You’re safe with me, sweetheart. Always.” She nods, digging the tips of her fingers deep into my shoulders. My God, her touch steals my breath away. I love having my hands on her, innocently placing them to show her a little affection. But when
touches me, my heart races, electricity zappin’ my pulse to a frantic craze ‘bout my chest. It makes me dizzy at times.
I swing my leg back over the bike and Savannah tensely grips my shoulders, straddling the bike. Without question, she wraps her arms around my waist, lacing her fingers together in a death grip. As I roar the engine to life she exhales roughly, resting her forehead in the center of my shoulders. I’m sure her eyes are pressed together tightly as she fights her way through the anxiety that’s crawling through her chest. But hell, she climbed on – hesitantly – but she trusted me enough to try.
The rubber sears against the pavement as I leave a thick cloud of smoke in my wake. Ain’t no point in easin’ her into this ride. Hell, ya gotta take life by the horns, look fear in the face and tell it to kiss ya ass…ya don’t cower from it. Savannah’s grip strengthens around me and I chuckle to myself. She might beat my ass when we stop. I hug the narrow, winding curves with ease, enjoying the feel of my girl cradled against my back, the warm fall breeze blanketing around us and the open road ahead. It doesn’t take long for Savannah to relax into my back, her grip loosening around my waist.
Turning off the highway, the throttlin’ engine hums softly as I downshift through the gears and come to a slow stop on the gravel road. I shut down the engine, tilt Tillie to the side then drop the kick stand in place. Takin’ Savannah by the hand, I help her off the bike before removin’ her helmet. She stretches out her tingling legs with a shy grin.
“Where are we?” She asks looking around the land. I pull the aviators from my face, placing them on the bill of my hat, then grip her fingers in mine, noddin’ my head towards the house.
“Home.” We walk hand in hand up the gravel road to the one and half story white farm house. “Been remodelin’ it for the last year, finished the partial wrap around porch last month.” She lets loose of my hand and pads over to the swing, floppin’ backwards against the plush cushion. Somehow I knew she’d melt into the swing once her eyes set on it. Her porch swing seems to be her thinkin’ place. I often find her there in the middle of the day readin’ on her Kindle or late at night when she’s restless and filled with worry. Only problem with a porch swing, they’re never quite comfortable. So I built this damn thing myself. The old wooden pallets give it an old, rustic look, but the thick memory foam cushioning feels like you’re floatin’ on a fluffy cloud.
“This is amazing.” Savannah mutters quietly. I bring the swing to a stop, grippin’ her hand in mine to bring her up to her feet. She puffs out her lip, pouting.
“We won’t be but a few minutes. Wanna show ya ‘round my place.” I pull open the rickety screen door, then twist the knob and step inside, Savannah stepping close to my side. Her soft green eyes roam around the disastrous mess I’ve made myself. “Still have a little work to do. Started puttin’ up the wainscoting a few weeks ago, but got busy and ain’t messed with much.” She drops her head sadly, rememberin’ my impromptu trip outta town. “I’ll get it all together shortly, though.” I tell her. She creeps through the hallway, examinin’ the kitchen and eat in dinin’ room. “This was all pretty simple, with the country charm and all. Just slapped some paint on the walls and bought a new dinette. I’m shit for decoratin’ though.” I laugh to myself as I look at the barren cranberry walls.
“Yeah you could definitely use a woman’s touch around here.” Savannah replies. She continues on through the house, making her way up the stairs to the bedrooms. They’re a mess still, carpet ripped up, walls scratched and dingy. Nothin’ some elbow grease and paint can’t fix, but all in due time. “And you’re doing all the work yourself?” She asks as we hit the bottom step.
“Yeah.” I reply with a proud nod. “Wanna water or pop?”
“Sure, water is fine, thank you.” I grab a couple bottles of water from the fridge then head to the front porch. Savannah wastes no time gettin’ comfortable, placing a throw pillow in her lap. She sighs, takin’ in our calm surroundings. Green for as far as the eye can see…nothing but grass and trees. “It’s gorgeous here. So peaceful.”
“It is. At night I sit out here and just listen to the crickets sing. Fell asleep on the swing a few times too.”
“How long have you lived here?” She questions.
“Bought it last year. Knew once I bought the diner I wasn’t goin’ nowhere. Found this place on the market for a steal because it was so run down. Needed new sidin’, windows and a roof. The hardwoods were salvageable, just needed a good sanding and some stain. Walls need some paint, but again with the woman’s touch.” I wink in her direction, a small smile playin’ up on my lips.
“Wow. I’m impressed. You’ve done a wonderful job with everything.”
I nod, thankin’ her silently as I take a deep swig of water.
“This swing though,” she begins, her smile brightenin’, “oh this is sheer heaven.”
“Figured you might like that. C’mon, let me show ya my favorite spot.” We talk as we walk the few hundred feet down to the creek. Two old oak trees stretch tall into the sky, about eight feet apart. Their branches stretch out, interlacing together and swaying low, creating a canopy of shade over the two Adirondack chairs. I breathe in the fresh clean air, the scent of nature embracing me as I relax down into the chair. It might not be much to most, but this spot is where I find my calm.
“This is all so beautiful. It’s quaint, quiet. It’s perfect.” She smiles. “I could listen to the stream of the creek til I fell asleep.”
“Thank ya, sweetheart. It’s home. I like bein’ out to myself, ain’t gotta listen to the sound of coal trucks screamin’ by or traffic. Just nature, the creek and the occasional train whistle late at night.”
“And you stay at my house, why?” She laughs.
“Don’t get cute with me, Sav.” I warn her with a devious wink. “C’mon, one more thing I wanna show ya, then we’ll head out for a bite to eat.
We walk passed the house towards the fenced field. Savannah is continually takin’ in her surroundings and I’m happy to see that she loves it out here as much as I do.
I brace my arms against the wooden post fence and let out a loud whistle. “Oh my, Brailee will be in heaven. She loves horses!” Savannah squeals as she watches the Tobiano Paint horse trollop towards us. She reaches out and brushes her hand down the silky coat and the horse rests her head against Savannah’s palm, enjoying the affection. Savannah tilts her head to the side and her face contorts in confusion. “Luke, is this…” her voice trails off as I interrupt her.
“Buttercup?” I ask and her eyes mist over with tears. “Sure is, sweetheart.” She throws her arms around my neck, knockin’ the wind right outta me with her force and closeness.
“Oh my-gosh, Luke. This is truly the sweetest thing anyone has ever done. I don’t know what to say!” She squeals through her tears. Pulling away, she focuses her attention on Buttercup, smoothly running her hand up her muzzle.